Lost amongst the flurry of acquisitions and signings, the shipping out of players and the speculation about others, Toronto FC made staff changes that may tip the scales more than any Atomic Ants or All-American Heroes -- the firing of Stewart Kerr, and the hiring of Robin Fraser.
Kerr came to TFC with an impressive resume -- credited with the development of John Ruddy, quietly one of the most consistent Goalkeepers in the English top tiers (my bleeding heart for Norwich City notwithstanding), not to mention a playing career at Celtic with quite respectable numbers. Julio Cesar called Kerr "the best goalkeeper coach" he'd ever worked with, and TFC's recent history with goalkeepers suggests that he may have been right.
TFC has 2 excellent goalkeeping prospects in the system, and Kerr would've been a great choice to work with them. In his place Jon Conway takes the GK Coach mantle. Conway's single appearance for TFC in the Canadian Championship gives him the most TFC experience of any on the coaching staff, a fact for which we may as well be grateful. Conway is relatively inexperienced as a coach, something he has in common with most of the coaching staff, but all signs point to TFC being successful between the sticks this season.
Further up the field, its a slightly different story. 2-time MLS Defender of the Year Robin Fraser joins the coaching staff in the wake of the Red Bulls' Petke debacle. An excellent hire by all accounts, Fraser's knowledge of the league and the game will be an asset to TFC. Fraser and Vanney have the Chivas connection - Fraser was head coach there while Vanney was an assistant - and though the roles are reversed, you get the sense that they may be able to make something they never could while in Los Angeles - a winning season.
The 2011 season - their first together - had such greats as Justin Braun and an oft-injured 35 year-old named Juan Pablo Ángel. Chivas finished with 8 wins. The following season saw Chivas accrue only 7 wins. It is worth noting that the only team with fewer wins in 2012 - our own Toronto FC - is now coached by the same tandem.
Where does that leave us, as TFC fans? Probably in the same place we've always been - the stands. Vanney and Bezbatchenko have put together a handsome roster without glaring weaknesses. We may be lacking depth across the backline, we may not have an MLS ready left winger, but the fact of the matter is this front office, no matter their past transgressions (or possibly crimes, but who's keeping track anymore) has put together something with real promise this year.
Fraser's hiring shows one facet of that - a widely regarded and respected MLS mind is an asset we've rarely had before. The splashes of cash for Giovinco and Altidore are marketed as signs of commitment to the fanbase. The flipside of that , of course, is that we've heard that before, but more and more I'm starting to get suckered in. Will the front office stop making boneheaded decisions? Ask Stewart Kerr, who shows Darren O'Dea-like levels of love for TFC, despite no longer working here. Ask Kit man Malcolm Phillips, the most universally loved TFC figure in our 9 year history.
Will we win MLS Cup? I hope so, but probably not. I've said it before, and I'll say it many more times in my life: TFC gonna TFC. Hopefully, that starts to mean something positive.